CIRI Spotlight: Dylan Jackson

Whatever happens to CIRI descendant Dylan Jackson in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 24-29, he’s already a winner by virtue of all the hard work that has earned him a spot in the competition there.

Dylan, a sixth grader who attends Nikiski North Star Elementary, earned the trip to the nation’s capital by taking first place in the Anchorage Daily News State Spelling Bee in March with the word “impetrate.” To win, he went up against more than 150 other third- through eighth-grade students.

“I’m excited and honored to be going to Washington, D.C. I know that success in a spelling bee is a combination of factors, hard work, talent, and some luck. I will continue to study hard and try my best in May,” said the 12-year-old.

Dylan was born Nov. 10, 1996. He is the son of Paul and Suzanne Jackson and the grandson of Rita Smagge of Kenai and Louise Jackson of Wasilla. His mother and maternal grandmother are both CIRI shareholders. He has an older brother, Tanar, 13; an older sister,Mandee, 16; and a younger sister, Rylee, 9.

The family lives on Daniels Lake in Nikiski. Dylan is Russian and Athabascan on his mother’s side and Dutch and Irish on his father’s.

Dylan said he has high regard for CIRI because the corporation supplements the family income, provides scholarships and is a part of many other businesses. He said he appreciates his ethnic heritage because it means subsistence fishing in the summer. “We get fish to smoke, can, and freeze for the winter, and we get to spend time with family.”

Dylan enjoys spelling, but his favorite subject is math because it’s easy for him. As for spelling, he got started in spelling competitions in classroom spelling bees in the fourth grade. He trains by spending 30 to 45 minutes a day going through the study book and browsing the dictionary. Before a meet, he visualizes himself as the winner. To prepare himself physically, he eats oatmeal, an orange and Emergen-C.

Trying to concentrate in a spelling bee can be nerve-wracking. Dylan’s strategy for dealing with the stress is to try to pretend the people aren’t there, “and it takes some of the pressure away,” he said.

The winner of is the Scripps National Spelling Bee is handsomely rewarded. Top prize is $30,000 in cash and an engraved loving cup trophy from Scripps, a $2,500 savings bond and reference library from Merriam-Webster, $3,800 in reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica, and a $5,000 cash prize from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Education Foundation.

Life is more than spelling studying for Dylan. He likes to play soccer and baseball, as well as read, study insects, play video games and add to his bubblegum collection. Throughout the winter, he enjoys snowboarding, snow machining and hanging out with friends. He is learning to play the guitar. He hopes to become an engineer or a video game designer.

The people who have inspired him to work hard are his parents and his teacher, Mrs. Matson, who is “always encouraging me to challenge myself.”

Dylan says other inspiration comes from a quote his parents posted on their refrigerator by an unknown author: “Winning is not normal and those who win follow an abnormal path. The discipline, dedication, and sacrifices are incomprehensible to those standing outside, looking in, who are capable of joining the winning team, yet unwilling to pay the price of admission. Winners win because they willingly pay their dues in full, time after time, after time.”

He reads the quote “to remind myself that anything worthwhile in life takes hard work.”

Dylan’s mother said the family has gotten a lot of support. “The response from friends, family, the school, and community have been remarkable! We are all so proud and excited for him.”

Is he the best speller in his family? Apparently so. His mom asks him to spell words all the time, he said.